It’s Nigeria vs Sweden! Date: June 7, 2002. Venue: Home’s Stadium, Kobe
Nigerians had become accustomed to the backflip celebrations of Super Eagles striker Julius Aghahowa.
At club level, they’ve seen him perform the flips, at continental level, with the national team, they’ve also seen him performing his traditional summersaults after every goal he scored.
Now, they yearned for the flips at the highest football level: the World Cup.
Nigeria had already lost their Group F opener 1-0 to Argentina, but the home fans were expectant of a turnaround of fortunes in the next game vs the Swedes.
And it was Aghahowa that opened score with a peach of a header in the 27th minute off a fantastic Joseph Yobo cross.
It really was a marvellous cross, and sailed in from the right and Aghahowa stole in between two static Swedish central defenders to put a fairly unstoppable header past Magnus Hedman, in goal for the Swedes.
In the stands, a big man wearing a pink bra cheered raucously as Aghahowa performed his breath-taking seven-somersault celebration.
Henrik Larsson’s brace, however, turned the game in favour of the Europeans, who won 2-1 to send Nigeria packing from the competition.
But Aghahowa’s goal celebration would remain one of the magic moments of that year’s World Cup.